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Case Law of the European Court of Justice

5 Dec 2014

Article 5(1) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 (OJ 2004 L 46, p. 1) (“Regulation”), air carriers are required to pay passengers compensation in the event of the cancellation or delay of a flight for more than three hours. If the air carrier can prove that the cancellation or the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken, such air carrier is relieved of that the aforementioned obligation to pay the compensation.

In Case C-394/14 the European Court of Justice has assessed whether a collision between an aircraft and a set of mobile boarding stairs must be regarded as “extraordinary circumstances” under the Regulation. 

In its order of 14 November 2014 the Court has pointed out that noted that technical problems may be regarded as ‘extraordinary circumstances’, provided that they stem from an event which, owing to its nature or origin, is not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier and is beyond its actual control. As regards a situation where a set of mobile boarding stairs collides with an aircraft, it was pointed out by the Court that such mobile stairs or gangways are indispensable to air passenger transport (to enable passengers to enter or leave the aircraft) and, accordingly, air carriers are regularly faced with situations arising from the use of such equipment. That being so, the Court concluded from this that such an event cannot be categorised as ‘extraordinary circumstances’, with the result that, given the considerable delay in the arrival of the flight, the air carrier is not relieved of its obligation to pay the passengers compensation. 
The full text of the Court order can be found here.

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